By Kevin Hopper
To understand why I march on Texas, you may need to know a little about me. Born and raised in Texas, I attended public Texas schools and colleges. Being the son of a Republican Air Force officer and a Democrat teacher, I understand that the issues that face this state are not partisan, they’re not black or white, and they’re not blue or red. But the truth is we live in a climate where politicians drive a wedge between neighbors and families in the interest of their own personal gain. I march on Texas because I realize the time is now to organize and take action.
After graduating from the University of North Texas, I moved to New York to pursue a career as a (struggling) freelancer. When I turned 26, I aged out of my parents’ healthcare. At the time, I was working multiple jobs and struggling just to stay afloat. So when I went to healtchare.gov to find coverage, I was shocked and relieved to find that I qualified for Medicaid. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, but coming from a state that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, I had never seen the system work like it was supposed to. Being young and healthy, I never had to use my Medicaid, but knowing that I was covered in case of an emergency gave me and my parents great peace of mind.
Fast forward a couple years, I move back to Texas to pursue a Teacher’s Certification and a career as a Texas public school teacher. Having lost my status as a Texas resident, I spent my first year biding my time until I qualified for in-state tuition. During this time, my financial stability remained about the same as it was in New York (not stable at all), but one thing did change: I lost healthcare coverage.
Back on healthcare.gov, I looked up my options for health-insurance providers available to me. Because I lived in Texas, I no longer qualified for Medicaid. And without subsidies, the options available to me here were just not feasible to fit into my budget. Even with the minimum coverage, A $350 monthly premium and a $5000 deductible meant that I was too poor to have healthcare in the State of Texas. My healthcare plan became the emergency room, and there was nothing I could do about it.
What I saw on that page was not the failure of the Affordable Care Act, but the outcome of disruptive policies by Texas’ politicians who are willing to destabilize the lives of their own constituents in order to win a rhetorical game for their own gain in the national political theater.
When I hear Texans and Texas business owners saying the Affordable Care Act is broken, I can’t help but think to myself, ‘that’s because those in power in this state won’t let it work the way it was designed’. Yes, ACA is not perfect, but the truth has been distorted by disruptive Tea Party politics and self-interested politicians seeking to dismantle public interest, privatize power, and sell our state to corporate oligarchs.
I march on Texas because I believe in the public interest. I march on Texas because I believe we are all less free when oligarchs can dismantle our democratically created institutions against the will and interest of the people. And I march on Texas because the time is now to bring about the change we need in this state to ensure all Texans have access to preventative healthcare and are provided for when they are sick or in need of medicine.